Membrane technology: from PhD to career in research & development

Posted in: 50 years of chemical engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, PhD

Author: Kah Peng Lee, alumnus of Chemical Engineering PhD


In 2009, I started my journey with membrane technology in Bath. Since then, membrane technology has become part of my career.


A picture of the University of Bath Chemical Engineering alumnus Kah Peng Leen featured on the cover of Folio magazine
Image copyright: © Evonik Industries AG (Evonik Folio Magazine)


The start of my journey

I had thousands of questions about membrane technology during my undergraduate study in Malaysia. Being one of the most efficient and advanced separation processes, lots of this technology remains to be explored. This unit operation is a multidisciplinary science of materials and process engineering. Having decided to pursue a PhD, I came across the Chemical Engineering Department in Bath and saw its good track record in Membrane Technology and Material Science. Being funded by the overseas research excellence award from the University, I started my PhD by investigating nano-structured membranes made of alumina and its applications. I am still very grateful for the supervision of Prof Davide Mattia and the funding from the University.


Research & development in practice

After one year of postdoctoral research in the Netherlands, I joined Evonik, a German speciality chemicals company in 2014. I started as a Senior Scientist to develop hollow fibre membranes for gas separation processes. Initially stationed in Austria, I was glad to join a growing field and have the opportunity to lead the R&D department. And the hard work paid off as we became a technology and market leader in biogas upgrading! Since 2022, I have been based in the Ruhr Area in Germany, being the Director of an innovation program to develop Anion Exchange Membranes for the green H2 sector.


Failures and perseverance lead to success - don't give up!

During my PhD and my industrial career, there have been uncountable frustrating times. I increasingly realise that hurdles or even failures have been important contributions to subsequent achievements. I spent the first 2 years of my PhD writing a review article on reverse osmosis, but in the end, it was unfortunately not part of my thesis. However, this article was well-cited and was eventually decisive for my first job offer. I understood that new product development and commercialisation are frequented by failures. Also, if it were easy, someone else would have done it too and achieved it already. A bit of persistence, patience and passion always helps! Good friends, good teammates, good food and drinks make those frustrating times more bearable too!


Posted in: 50 years of chemical engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, PhD


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response